No U.S. President Joe Biden visit for Republic day, indicate officials 

No U.S. President Joe Biden visit for Republic day, indicate officials 

Quad Summit, due to be held in January has been put off to later in 2024 owing to scheduling difficulties 

India has put off plans to hold the Quad Summit in January, said government sources, in an indication that U.S. President Joseph Biden has declined the invitation to visit India as chief guest at the Republic Day parade as well. The invitation to Mr. Biden had been revealed by U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, who said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited President Biden for the parade on January 26 during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Delhi in September. When asked whether the Quad postponement meant that the U.S. President would also miss Republic Day, officials pointed out that it would be unlikely for President Biden to travel to India twice to Delhi, twice in an election year, when he is running for re-election.

While the dates for the Quad summit of India-Australia-Japan-U.S. leaders had never been publicly announced, The Hindu had learnt from diplomatic sources that New Delhi had proposed to hold the summit on January 27. Both Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had indicated they could fly in on January 26 evening in order to attend the Quad summit the next day, and officials had been awaiting a confirmation from the White House on Mr. Biden’s availability. The government sources said the Quad Summit, which India is due to host for the first time in 2024, will now be held “later in 2024”. 

“We are looking for revised dates as the dates currently under consideration do not work with all the Quad partners,” said the sources who were aware of the planning.  A senior official said the U.S. had expressed difficulties with scheduling Mr. Biden’s visit in January given the Congressional schedule, as well as plans to hold the State of the Union address. Mr. Biden is the third U.S. President to have been invited to be the chief guest at Republic Day in the past decade. However, only U.S. President Barack Obama was able to attend in 2015, while U.S. President Donald Trump had declined attending the parade in 2020, owing to Congressional commitments.

On the Quad Summit, the U.S. State Department indicated that the ball was in New Delhi’s court . “We defer to India, as hosts of the next Quad Summit, on any announcements of a date or location,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu on Tuesday. The Hindu also reached out to the White House for a comment on whether Mr Biden would attend Republic Day celebrations. 

For Japan and Australia too, the timing of the Quad Summit had earlier posed some issues, as January 26 is Australian National Day and Prime Minister Albanese would have had to leave Canberra directly after the ceremonies, and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida would have needed a special parliamentary waiver to travel, as the Japanese Diet is in its budget session at the time. 

Awkward time

While officials have been clear that scheduling difficulties are behind the reason for the Quad meeting and Mr. Biden’s visit being put off, the announcement comes at an awkward time in Indo-U.S. relations, days after the indictment in New York of an Indian national in an assassination plot allegedly directed by a senior Indian intelligence official against wanted Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. 

Since the indictment, the government has ordered a “high-level enquiry” into the U.S.’s allegations, even as a number of American officials visiting Delhi have raised the issue with Indian counterparts. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) Jonathan Finer discussed the investigation into the plot in Delhi last week where he met NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and Christopher Wray, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) — the agency responsible for the undercover investigation, is in Delhi at present . 

Mr. Biden decision not to attend the Republic Day event and Quad Summit in January would set off speculation about a possible strain in India-U.S. ties on this issue, even as the two sides have strengthened their partnership in a number of bilateral, strategic and technological areas, especially since Mr. Modi’s State Visit to Washington in June this year. Government officials would not comment on who New Delhi would invite in the event of Mr. Biden’s absence, with some sources suggesting that U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could visit India in January if the India-U.K. free trade agreement is ready for finalisation by then. In 2021, then U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had cancelled his visit to India for the Republic Day parade due to the COVID pandemic. 

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